Ben Wilinofsky dominates to win EPT Berlin and €825,000
If there was a defining hand of the EPT Berlin main event final, it came just 20 minutes into the day's play. With short stacks making up the bulk of the landscape the two big stacks, Ben Wilinofsky and Maximilian Heinzelmann, were expected to simply knock them aside. Instead, they put their chips on a collision course, the result changing the whole dynamic of the final. Suddenly one man had a monopoly, the fun-loving, cocksure firebrand, and new EPT Berlin winner, Ben Wilinofsky.
From that moment Wilinofsky never looked back, using his cavalier start to maintain, not only a control over the game, but of the conversation. The 22-year-old, who looks not unlike a Dog Day Afternoon Pacino, used cheek and expertise to put others on the back foot, never letting them alone with their thoughts long enough to re-organise, even greeting his heads-up opponent Maximilian Heinzelmann with a handshake and the good-natured throwaway line: "You're so dead."
Heinzelmann had been the David to Wilinofsky's Goliath. His was a spirited heads-up fight back, going into the duel with a 70-30 disadvantage and sling-shotting his way to within a double-up of the lead.
But the task was simply too great. Wilinofsky had already proven himself in the online arena; this was his chance to prove himself, in front of his peers, in the live tournament world.
Wilinofsky, smiling all the way to the bank
The result was a win for goliath; his first EPT title, his first EPT cash, his first live cash full stop, with his infamous empty Hendon Mob database page now updated to the tune of a single €825,000 cash, one of the biggest anywhere in the world.
The final result:
1st - Ben Wilinofsky, Canada, PokerStars qualifier, €825,000
2nd - Maximilian Heinzelmann, Germany, €500,000
3rd - Vadzim Kursevich, Belarus, €300,000
4th - Martin Jacobson, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier, €230,000
5th - Armin Mette, Germany, €180,000
6th - Darren Kramer, South Africa, €140,000
7th - Joep van den Bijgaart, Holland, Team PokerStars Pro, €100,000
8th - Jonas Gutteck, Germany, €66,000
Given the terrain his opposition had to choose their moments carefully, jostling between themselves for the dubious honour of going first.
After a little more than an hour of play Jonas Gutteck got his chips in. Handicapped by the short stack, Gutteck had been treading water until the sight of J♠9♠ became one he had no choice but to side with. Heinzelmann though had found kings, got another on the flop and a fourth on the turn, sending Gutteck out in eight place, earning €66,000.
Play then took on its previous shape, all-ins not called and short stacks growing increasingly desperate. Team PokerStars Pro Joep van den Bijgaart was all too familiar with this, moving in, pulling his sweater up to partially hide his face, and eventually getting a call from Wilinofsky.
Joep van den Bijgaart
Van Den Bijgaart showed ace-five, but the board turned Wilinofsky's king-jack into two pairs, sending the Dutch pro out with €100,000. Five minutes later Darren Kramer joined him on the rail; Vadzim Kursevich dispatching the South African when he flopped a set with pocket sevens. Kramer gone with €140,000.
Armin Mette had done well to survive so long. Another short stack (only Wilinofsky had been able to claim otherwise), his move with pocket deuces ran into Wilinofsky's ace-king, the ace pairing on the flop, tripping on the turn, and quading on the river; four bullets to dispatch Mette in fifth, earning €180,000.
It was then time for the Martin Jacobson saga to come to an end, at least its Berlin chapter.
Jacobson's performances this season have been well documented, with EPT Berlin marking his third final table of the season, following his two second place finishes in Vilamoura and Deauville. The poker world tuned in to watch the young Swede take on his bridesmaid curse.
It was a big ask, what with Wilinofsky in the way. But Jacobson's efforts had been superlative, his instinct and timing near perfect; never careless or reckless, and his mouth unconsciously hanging open as he processed every decision.
Ultimately Vadzim Kursevich sent Jacobson to the rail, his pocket sixes toppling the Swede's ace-king. "I'm not bummed by coming fourth," he said. "It would have been worse to lose heads-up."
The duty of losing heads-up would be left to Heinzelmann, when Kursevich, who was no pushover, fell in third. Exhausted looking, either through fatigue or genetics, he got his chips in on the flop with top pair, only for Wilinofsky show him a straight. The Belorussian was out in third place, earning €300,000.
The rest, well you can read about that at the links below:
Congratulations to Ben Wilinofsky for winning a first EPT title, a Shambala bracelet and entry not only into the EPT Grand Final, but a seat in the Champion of Champions event in Madrid next month.
It all went by in a blur
That's all from the European Poker Tour in Berlin. As always you can read the account of today in both German and Dutch, and find details of everyone who cashed in Berlin on the prizewinners and payout page. Finally, our thanks to photographer Neil Stoddart for the superlative images used this week.
If you're still looking for some live tournament poker, check out the coverage from Uncasville, where the NAPT Mohegan Sun event is in full Day 2 swing.
That's all from us. The EPT takes a short break as it loads up its wagons for the journey south to San Remo, on the Italian Riviera. It's one of the most picturesque places in the world to play poker, one not to be missed. Wilinofsky will be there, as will we, bringing live coverage of the main event starting on Wednesday 27th April.
Until then, it's goodnight from Berlin.